A Q&A with MAG Interactive co-founder and CEO Daniel Hasselberg. The Stockholm-based startup, which develops casual mobile games, completed a $6 million first round of funding led by Nokia Growth Partners earlier this month. It was founded in 2010.
SUB: Please describe MAG Interactive and your primary innovation.
Hasselberg: We are a mobile games developer from Stockholm, Sweden. This far, we have released two mobile games in the casual genre. Our first game, Ruzzle, has been downloaded more than 45 million times, and the more recent game, QuizCross, is approaching five million downloads. Both games are available on App Store and Google Play.
The players of Ruzzle have swiped their screens in hunt for words a total distance that would get you to the moon and back more than 26 times.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Hasselberg: Our target audience is more or less anyone, but the typical player is 20-to-50 years old, with a slight bias towards women. The biggest markets download-wise are USA, Italy, and France, and we are currently targeting Europe and the Americas.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates MAG Interactive from the competition?
Hasselberg: Anyone competing for the attention of the casual game audience would be considered competition. The most known names are probably King, Wooga and Zynga. But as we have been able to be the number one game in over 30 countries and the number one word game in 100 countries, there seems to be enough space for us.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $6 million in your first institutional funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Hasselberg: We have been cash-flow positive since day one, and did not need any funding. I think that is a great position of strength when inviting someone to join your company. Our main objective when doing this round was to get external expertise on the board to support us in growing the company to the next level.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Hasselberg: We are continuously recruiting more talent to be able to develop more games in parallel and this deal will definitely help us in that process. I also believe that our new investor NGP’s network will help us expand into new markets.
Hasselberg: Some of us in the founding team have worked in mobile ever since the late nineties; and the launch of the iPhone and the App Store was really the ‘aha’ moment for us. The market was finally here, and we decided to get back into the mobile space again after a few years working on music download services in the Nordic and Baltic markets.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Hasselberg: Doing some work-for-hire developing apps to make sure we could develop our own games without raising any money. Great to be in the driver’s seat from day one.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Hasselberg: ‘MAG’ actually stands for ‘Mobile Access Group’ and reflects that when we started out back in 2003, we worked with mobile clients accessing data on the Internet. MAG Interactive is a daughter company to MAG that we started in 2010.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Hasselberg: Not really. There are continuously coming in proposals, but as we are generating cash it would be more of a strategic partner if we would accept any investments at this stage.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Hasselberg: Since we were lucky enough to get a massive hit with our first game, it has been pretty easy to reach profitability. The hardest part right now is to find enough talent to grow the teams at the pace I would like.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Hasselberg: Our main revenue driver is advertising. We also have an in-app purchase to open up the premium version of the games.
SUB: What are your goals for MAG Interactive over the next year or so?
Hasselberg: We will continue to release high-quality casual games that our players enjoy to play and love to share with their friends. As long as that is achieved the rest is pretty easy.
MAG Interactive – www.maginteractive.se